Thursday, 23 August 2018

Into the Rhône river bypassing Lyon.

Day 49 to Day 65 .... R and R in the mountains. Day 65 drove to pk61 wild camp at Drace lock.

Day 66 Sat 18th August. Sun and breezy 26 degrees. Rowed 23 Kms to wild camp at pk 38 1km  south of Villefranche-sur-Saone. Now Rowed 795kms and Driven 1241.7 miles

Day 67 Sun 19th August. Sun 30 degrees. Rowed 21kms to pk 17 Saone Couzon lock and Drove to camping at St Genie Laval. Now rowed 816km Driven 1257 miles

Day 68 Monday 20th August. Sun 33 degrees. Drove to pk 15 Rhone to launch in old river. Rowed 27.5km to pk42.5 wild camp. Now Rowed 843.5km Driven 1315.8 miles.

Day 69. Tuesday 21st August. Sun 33 degrees. Rowed 18.5km to wildcamp at pk 60.5 Peyraud barrage. Now Rowed 862km Driven 1331.5 miles.

Day 70. Wednesday 22nd August. Sun 33 degrees. Rowed 14.5km to St Vallier pk75. Now Rowed 877.5. Driven 1341.5 miles.

Day 71. Thursday 23rd August. Sun and clouds 30 degrees. Rowed15.5km to Tournon sur Rhone. Now Rowed 893kms and Driven 1358.8 miles.

Into the Rhône river, bypassing Lyon.

As we approached Lyon we still had no further information or answers from VNF or CNR and although we seriously studied our charts and books one final time no magic solution appeared.

Decision made, we lift out, do the distance later and if the purists consider that disqualifies me from a record, so what, that never was my objective anyway. 

Certainly we earned a medal for the route Sara directed me over the hills around hairpin bends on lanes little wider than the van! What fantastic views though and how surprised we were to find that the town which we had mainly considered industrial is surrounded by attractive green spaces and most tasteful properties. Against that though it is worse than a Grand National course with speed bumps every few yards.

The following day we launched into the old Rhone on the lower side of Lyon and I enjoyed some rare current until reaching the main river. From then on strong winds gusting from all directions around the surrounding humpy hills made rowing a straight course very difficult. What with the motorway on one side and a railway on the other it was not the choicest of days. The lift out at Vaugris lock was also not easy and Oggi required roping up a steep slippery overgrown ramp under the blazing sun. 

When I was stopped by lock workers halfway to the down river slip with Oggi on her wheels, I had to be a dumb old Englishman, and said "je n'comprends pas" and walked on. They didn't shoot me! The descent slip was twice the height of the previous one so rope control was essential. Unfortunately, due to the exceedingly low level of the river the bottom deteriorated into gooey muddy rock and very shallow. We eventually got Oggi afloat but not before we both slipped and had smelly mud baths.

On Tuesday I made an early start and scooted along at more than 5kmh to the split of the navigation channel at pk40 while Sara went out to seek necessary fodder. A big sign directed kayaks to a slip. Reluctantly I obeyed as per my VNF instructions but had to clear a skip load of driftwood to reach a dilapidated overgrown way out of the river. I heaved Oggi up about 20feet  of bracken and broken concrete and then obtained the services of a couple of passing cyclists to lug her over the mound at the top.

I towed her about a km along the cycle path to a kayak center to await Sara. Some confusion arose as to the route to the old Rhone way below, bypassing the weir and turbine gates due to the total lack of signage. Dragging a boat around in the mid 30s under a blazing hot sun is not much fun and I think both of us were thinking "why on earth are we here!".

My spirits were revived back on the river which flows through a wild protected nature reserve for about 11kms where no motorised craft are allowed. Sara went on and explored ahead and called me with good and bad news. The good news was that she had found a nice shady spot but the bad news was that there was a very dangerous double drop weir not shown on the chart at pk61. Then my starboard rowlock mount broke again!!!! Never mind, we will finish today's row tomorrow after a rest and when I have done the necessary repairs.

Today is another day. Apart from being held up for half an hour at the launch ramp when a local fisherman beat us to it with his trailer boat, it was mostly a very pleasant enjoyable row in light winds. Payback time to the fisherman came though when he backed into the water having forgotten to release the boat's strops and buried the stern.

I fair flew along on a glassy river with at least 1kmh of favourable current. Today's near disaster whilst I was rowing close to port marker pole very near to the shore to give a peniche the rest of the river to safely overtake. Unexpectedly he turned straight at me when only about 100 metres off. I turned and rowed at full Henley regatta rate towards the centre of the river to escape. I had aclear view in to the wheelhouse and saw nobody there. Clearly from this and the subsequent route he took around the outside of the wide bend he was on autopilot and probably relying totally on GPS neglecting any safety lookout. Well done 'Fidelity' how long before you kill someone!

The profit from yesterday's problems is that I only had to row 14.5kms to the campsite and have a lazy afternoon.

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